Friday, August 13, 2010

The Saigon Sub

As I had mentioned before, conquest is good for the food scene. When one nation occupies another, new foods develop. Indigenous ingredients are introduced to old world recipes and old world ingredients are incorporated into local recipes. One of the best results of this fusion is the Banh Mi.
Also knows as a Vietnamese Sub, Hoagie or Po’ Boy the Banh Mi is just about the perfect sandwich. One part French and one part Vietnamese this South Asian offering is a cheap and tasty treat.
In the middle of the 19th century, the French started colonizing South Asia in what would become French Indochina. The local Viet peoples would be introduced to a variety of French delicacies including pate and the baguette. The addition of local ingredients would give birth to a whole new sandwich based loosely on the French “Salad Sandwich.”
The basic recipe consists of the bread with butter or mayo, a smear of pate, fish or soy sauce, cilantro, cucumber and do chua. A pickled salad of shredded carrots and daikon (a type of radish). That said, any of these ingredients can be omitted. (except the bread of course) The addition of grilled chicken, BBQ pork, sausage or a number of other protein are the variables. You can also get breakfast and veggie options as well.
One of the best I’ve had is the deluxe “Thit Nguoi” (assorted cold cuts) from Rose Cafe in Toronto’s East Chinatown.
Rose Cafe
Rose’s place is a small cafe/grocery store specializing in Vietnamese fast foods and deserts. Sandwiches, spring rolls and banana leaf wrapped delicacies are interspersed with South Asian dry goods and even DVD’s.
RC inside
Whenever I’m in the Leslieville/Cabbagetown area it’s my go to snack stop.
RC Wares
But enough about that, on to the sandwich.
My order, “Deluxe Spicy” is just about the perfect sandwich. The heat of the chilies balanced with the cooling of the cucumber. The richness of the pate played off against the cilantro. The sweet and sour of the do chua. The tasty, salty meats in harmony with the bread. It’s a masterpiece.
Banh Mi (Deluxe Spicy)
The components are broken down as follows. Starting from the ground up…..
The bread is a light baguette made from rice and wheat flours. The resulting thin, crispy crust can end up making quite the bread crumb mess if even if you’re careful.
Rose uses butter (not mayo) when making hers and then some pate is added.
Next come the meats. To a certain degree it’s mystery meat. Typically though, ham, chicken breast and pork roll are used but some places add head cheese. Rose does not.
If I were to take one thing that I just couldn’t live without it’s the do chua. This slaw like garnish as just about as tasty as it can be. The sweetness of the carrot with the pungent daikon and the tart pickling is fantastic. The balance in this garnish is a microcosm of the sandwich it’s self.
The cucumber adds a nice coolness and a bit of crunch.
Enough hot peppers are added to liven it up before fresh cilantro provides a fresh taste and some more crunch.
As great as all this is, you just can’t beat the price either. Just $2.50 will secure one of these beauties for you and that’s actually expensive. Somewhere in the $2.00 range is usual but the extra cold cuts jack the price up slightly. More than worth the money.
You can find Rose Cafe at 324 Broadview Ave. Toronto, Ontario.

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Well that’s all for today kids. See ya next time in the food court.


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